S is for Screenplay

| March 16, 2014
1. The screenplay has a structure that has become standard within the film industry. This structure dictates how the words should look on the page. If you weren’t reading the words and just looking at the pages of a screenplay, it would be nearly impossible to differentiate one screenplay from another.
2. What is a screenplay? Syd Field, in his widely praised screenwriting book Screenplay, states a screenplay is “a story told with pictures, in dialogue and description, and placed within the context of dramatic structure.”
3. A screenplay is not written as a stand alone work the way a novel might be written. The screenplay is written almost as a set of instructions, a way of telling someone how a film should look. The screenplay is not an end in itself, it assumes the images and dialogue will be filmed. The screenplay is contingent upon the film. One could say that a screenplay is a work of art, but that it is a contingent art. If a screenplay is never filmed, is it no longer a work of art?
4. I am currently writing a screenplay, but it seems like most everyone else is too.
5. A lot of conceptual art plays on some of the same ground as a screenplay. Yoko Ono wrote a book that is merely a list of instructions, short phrases telling you to do something. Is the work not fully realized until someone performs the actions that have been written?
6. A student is given instructions to follow on a test. If the student deviates from those instructions, a lower grade will surely be given.
7. The instructions of a screenplay are much more fluid, they assume the filmmaker will create a world out of them that might not be intended by the screenwriter.
8. Maybe a screenplay isn’t instructions as much as suggestions. What if we used suggestions, rather than instructions, in education? Give room for freedom within the structure of the classroom, within the structure of the assignment.